If you haven’t jumped on the 3D printing bandwagon yet, it might be time to box up those 8-Track tapes, trade in that flip-phone for a smartphone, and get your feet wet in one of the most exciting technologies to hit the manufacturing industry in a decade.
If you’re new to 3D printing, otherwise known as “additive manufacturing”, here’s a basic overview of the technology.
- It’s called “additive” because you effectively grow your parts layer by layer, out of glass, plastic metal or in the case of Hershey, chocolate! There is very little waste in the process as compared to other manufacturing processes and almost any shape can be made.
- You design and produce your objects in accordance with a 3D digital computer model.
- The model supports rapid prototyping in a way never before possible, reducing development costs, time to market and continual tweaking without retooling costs.
- Because of the speed and low lead time of 3D printed part production, just in time manufacturing and inventory reduction can be achieved. 3D printing lends itself to increased supply chain mobility, flexibility, and adaptability, therefore reducing costs and waste. Companies no longer have to predict consumer demand by gambling on how much of a product they will sell; 3D printing ensures maximum flexibility by allowing them to print what they need.
- 3D Printing has become suitable for high volume production. While this was a early knock on the viability of the technology, it has advanced to the point that major manufacturers are using it to produce critical parts in high volume production runs. As an example, the Smile Direct Club uses 3D printers to crank out more than 50,000 personalized orthodontic moulds every day.
And the final bit of good news about 3d printing may be the cost. While large companies producing custom metal parts for a jet engine or a car may still spend up to 500,000 dollars for a precise, high volume metallurgical printer, smaller printers that work in plastic, carbon, ceramic, or glass are in a price range affordable to almost any mid level manufacturer.
CPI Uses 3d printing to lower Production Costs.
While CPI was an early adopter of 3D printing technology in our research lab, is was in the middle of the pandemic of 2020 that we chose to go all in on the technology to achieve some significant wins in manufacturing by producing precision parts for our line of Draw Wire Linear Position Sensors.